It’s all my mother’s fault.
I grew up, not far from the North Georgia mountains—and yes, you guessed it. On many a weekend, my mother and I would go hiking. It was fun; it was peaceful; it was communal—we always seemed to find people to meet, get to know and even get along with.
But it was not until this summer, that I really began to Hike—and to figure out a different relationship with hiking. This blog tells the story of my new found understanding of hiking—one forged on the campus of UGA Costa Rica.
Hike 1: The first hike we did was on the trial near the campus of the University of Georgia. Elliot, one of the naturalists walked us through the forest for about two hours. I am terrible with details but here is what I remember – a plant that spreads its seed through poop (a bird’s if you must know); a tree that is suffocated by a parasitic scaffolding; an unidentifiable but magnificently blue butterfly that refused to sit still for a photograph; butterfly catchers for experiments—and above all a thick forest that allowed little light in.
Hike 2: We had a silent hike during the day. We went down the same trial as before, but we just went the opposite way. At first, it was difficult not talking for a whole two hours in the forest, and I felt like I was playing charades when the interns Elliott and James would point and make hand gestures to symbolize certain aspects of the forest. The interns pointed out ants. There were so many ants, and they would all march in the same direction with one goal in mind. We also saw a plant called a rattlesnake plant, which looked like corn to me.
Hike 3: This was a hike to the Monteverde Cloud Forest. I really enjoyed this hike, even though it was raining most of the time. The rain was peaceful. We saw (and heard) a lot of beautiful birds. We also saw a tarantula—freaky scary and amazing at the same time! We got to see baby birds in its nest, and they were so little and cute. We walked over a bridge that was high in the air, and it amazed me how high up we were. It was like we were standing high in the clouds. There was a lot of fog and green plants everywhere. I think my favorite part of this hike was seeing and hearing animals that I had never seen in my entire life.
So what’s changed?
Well, thinking about nature for one—and the place of hiking in it. We read the essay “Love It or Lose It: The Coming Biophilia Revolution,” for our class and the book Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. The essay categorizes people as either having “biophobia” (aversion to nature) or a “biophilia” (love for nature). Quinn’s book reflects on how humans’ attempts to control nature. We spray pesticides on the ground; we cut away forests to build cities, and we all too often forget that we are not the only creature living on the planet.
So, despite those childhood hikes, I have come to recognize myself as quite a bit of “biophobia.” I thought nature was pretty, but I also was disgusted by bugs and afraid of certain aspects of nature because I was afraid that nature would hurt me.
This fear kept me inside in the air-conditioning for most of the time.
I have learned so far that I need to open my eyes to the everyday beauty that nature offers. I even find that bugs crawling near me do not bother me anymore because I have become accustomed to the bugs—as just another element of the natural world. Not only do I need to open my eyes to nature, but I also need to open my eyes to the environmental impacts that humans have on the earth. After this trip, I think I will definitely have a newfound love for the environment.
So, Mom, yes you were right– one should always decide to hike—preferably in Costa Rica!